Monday Morning Warm-up: Getting Unstuck

I’m only one day behind in Teachers Write due to discovering it at the very last minute (thanks, Twitter!), so I’m doing my Monday Morning Warm-up on Tuesday. Hopefully, I’ll catch up soon and stay caught up; I want to be efficient but also write meaningful pieces, so I’ll try not to rush.

Yesterday’s warm-up was about getting unstuck in your writing. This is something with which I struggle; I tend to abandon writing rather than unstick myself, and I should try to do better. In fact, one of my students told me this morning that she has started three stories and gotten tired of all of them. I told her that was no problem; in fact, my notebook is full of unfinished pieces. But then I started thinking about perseverance and writing stamina. It wasn’t that this student was giving up since she lost steam: it was that she didn’t know what else to write, so she started something else. She wanted to write and knew HOW – she just didn’t know WHAT. I talked her through some multiple narration ideas, some switching perspective options, and some possible character changes. As I was talking to her, I realized that I should be applying these suggestions to my own writing. I tend to be impatient with myself, jumping from piece to piece with no real direction, so this warm-up is perfect for me. Here is a list and here is another one about how to unstick a story if you are interested (the second is more definitely geared toward adult writers, but I think I can adapt it for my students).

Jo Knowles gives a great list (in her blog linked above) of things you can do when you feel stuck as a writer. I’ve chosen to work on “Weave in theme in a subtle, beautiful way.” I haven’t written anything recently that I’d like to work on thematically, but the warm-up was just about reflecting on the importance of the idea. During my writing time tomorrow with the students, I’ll start a new piece and keep theme in mind – that is my goal. (Side note: one of my biggest pet peeves is people referring to concepts as themes. A concept is one word or phrase (friendship) and a theme is a lesson about that concept, a complete sentence (“True friends don’t desert one another.”).)

I don’t know what theme I’d like to work in; I’m thinking about something having to do with change or the importance of individuality or how unpredictable events can be. My problem, though, is that I think all of those themes are pretty played out…every time I think of something, I think of other people who have done it much better than I ever could. Maybe this means that I should be working on my confidence as a writer! I think having a theme with which to work will give me direction in my writing and lessen the chances that I’ll abandon yet another piece. It will probably also give me some inspiration for events or conversations when I think I’ve said everything I need to say, which is why it’s a great idea for getting unstuck. Perhaps I should be passing this on to my students as well!

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